If you're a Celtics fan, you're probably already not a big fan of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. After the Cavs won 66 games last season and knocked the Celtics out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference, there was little hope of seeing any LBJ jerseys on the streets of Boston. The rivalry was officially on.
And given the events of this week, it might get a little more heated this upcoming season.
According to Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer, former Celtics power forward Leon Powe has already been offered a contract with the Cavaliers, who appear poised to poach the backup big man with weak knees and a heart of gold.
Windhorst, one of the more respected beat writers in the game, reports that because of Powe's questionable health status, the Cavs "are believed to have made a short-term and limited offer, and there are indications that Powe might wait for it to be sweetened or to wait until further into his rehab to prove his knee is healthy."
Makes sense. In a perfect world, that's exactly what the Celtics would do with him.
It's not that the Celtics don't like Powe — that's not why they turned him loose when he hit restricted free agency on July 1. The Celtics failed to make a qualifying offer to retain Powe not because they were dissatisfied with his play, but because his presence is a luxury the Celtics simply can't afford.
Powe can be a great player off the bench. He plays much bigger than his 6-foot-8 frame — he crashes the boards. He posts up taller defenders. He scores with the best of them. But he's very limited as a power forward — being not tall enough to play center and not quick enough to play like a wing man, he plays one position and one position only. And with his constant risk of knee injuries and the torn ACL that took him out of the 2009 playoffs, his health is always a concern. The Celtics can't afford to throw a few million dollars at a player that might sit out the entire season.
The Celtics' best hope for having Powe contributing to their team down the stretch is to wait. If they're lucky, Powe will remain unsigned through December or January, his legs will be fully healed, and then they can bring him back in time to be a contributor come playoff time. The C's may already have Rasheed Wallace, but you can never have enough depth in the low post once the spring months roll around. In Boston, that's a lesson that's been learned the hard way of late.
But unfortunately for the Celtics, stealing Powe away from Boston is a shrewd move for the Cavaliers. Powe's a good fit in Boston — because of his health status, he's only good for a one-year contract, and the Cavs happen to be going for broke this year anyway, since LeBron James' deal expires next summer.
And the Cavs could certainly use another good power forward. Few noticed that in obtaining Shaquille O'Neal, the center that could lead them to a title, they had to give up Ben Wallace, a superb defensive post player who could have helped the team next season. When they swung a deal for Mo Williams last summer, they gave up Joe Smith. These guys need replacing — one more forward would go a long way toward helping the Cavaliers' title chances.
Like the Celtics, the Cavs are in trouble financially. Not only did they bring in Shaq's enormous contract this offseason, but they also locked in Jamario Moon and re-signed Anderson Varejao. They're strapped for cash. But it's hard to quibble over a couple million bucks in Cleveland, where a championship is only the beginning of what's at stake. They're also battling for future control of their franchise superstar, and LeBron needs to know he's playing for a team that's committed to winning.
The Cavaliers are that team. They can prove it by locking up one more piece.
Unfortunately for Boston, Powe to Cleveland makes a lot of sense, and it's a deal that could have quite an impact on the balance of power in the Eastern Conference.
Whenever you lose a guy like Leon Powe, it hurts. No debating that.
But when you lose him to your newfound bitter rival … well, that hurts double.
Say it ain't so, Leon.